Because I Come From Somewhere

My Mom was murdered when I was 26. And as I kept the Moon in the Window, running on manual and Gatorade and a small seed of belief that things would get better, I had to start powering up again. One system at a time. One moment, one breath, one choice at a time. 

Contemplating that, I knew I'd never be the same. 

All that I had carried, my deeply held beliefs, aspirations, relationships, all of that was out of my pockets now, strewn on the table like pocket lint, change, and the odd receipt. I couldn't just sweep it all back into my jeans pocket and move on, assuming my place in the life that had stopped on December 5th, 2003. That life - and that young woman - were gone now. Instead, I had a different task: I had to reckon with it all, size it up. I needed to choose what to carry now, what could I still make room for, alongside my new burdens, grief and pain. 

In retrospect, 26 was a pretty good age to do all of this, if I had to. I had been busily establishing myself as a young adult - good job, great friends, new home. And I was surrounded by wonderful friends doing the same. In those first heartbreaking months, I had to reconcile who I was - who I wanted to be. I didn't think as much about where I'd come from. Yes, I mourned the loss of my Mom, the anchor and heart of our family. Yes, my Dad and my brother's pain and sadness took my breath away. I think, though, that it was easier for me to look forward; I had plenty to think about and work on. The shape of my pain and my grief was constructed around the loss of my best friend, my amazing Mom. 

It was years later, that I found a new dark place, a new loss. As I've gotten older, I've watched my same wonderful friends become more connected to their parents - perhaps, it is because their parents need them more as they age. Often, it is because they need and are enriched by their parents more as they manage life with young children. 

When my oldest son was born, I too went home in that way. My Dad, after all, was a doting grandfather and I loved seeing him hold my son. He had always been a baby whisperer, the ultimate teacher of silly human tricks. I delighted in creating that space for him in my life and our family. When he died two years later, the crushing grief and pain of my mom's unresolved murder ultimately catching up with him, I was alone again. 

As I ran today - 18 miles! - I kept turning over the idea of origins in my head. I am my own person, but deeply grateful for and accountable to my parents. To my children - I now have two boys - though, I am forever an adult. They never get to see me be someone's child. When my youngest breaks out an impressive dance move or my oldest curls up with a book, there is no one to say, "wow, he reminds me so much of you." I guess at connections. I share pictures and stories. 

But, I do come from somewhere. 

I come from tough. I come from kind. I come from waving at strangers. I come from notes in my lunchbox. I come from great childhood birthday parties. I come from amazing care packages at college. I come from parents who knew how I was feeling by the sound of my voice on the phone. I come from love. And step after step today, I thought, this feels good. This feels hard. 

And part of why I need to run this marathon is because it will be hard. And it will be for her, and for both of them. Because I am willing to go to extraordinary lengths to demonstrate that I come from somewhere. That even more than 13 years later, I remember her voice. I don't remember her touch anymore. I can see her eyes. 

And as I mother, every day, I feel her. I desperately wish that I could ask her how she felt under the crush of two truly different kids. Or whether or not I woke up in the middle of the night, calling out to her, with a fear of the dark. 

And on her birthday, I will spend 26 miles with her, whispering in my ear, saying, "You can do this. If you do your best, the rest will take care of itself." Between now and then, I take these stolen moments to run and write and think, sharing them with you.